Learning To Fight Right

©2010 by George A. Kohl This Bible study course was written by Rev. George A. Kohl with gratitude for those who consulted and edited. Rev. George A. Kohl may be contacted at Belmont Street Baptist Church, 25 Belmont Street, Worcester, MA 01605, gakbsbc@verizon.net, 508-753-0312.All Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House and Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd. All rights reserved. The NIV does not capitalize pronouns related to deity and these materials do. To remain faithful to the NIV, no changes were made when the NIV was being quoted.

DIRECTIONS: The course participant should attentively read the Scripture passage in the heading and the reading that follows. While most readings are one page, a few are longer and a few are shorter. A judgment on the pace at which you go through this course is up to you and your mentors, teachers, or group leaders. There is no need to hurry. The emphasis should always be more on practicing the Word than understanding its teachings. Mark the places where you have questions to discuss with a mentor or group leader. In a separate notebook, honestly respond in writing to the “Heart Checkups” that follow each reading. It is intended that you will spend several minutes thinking and praying about the heart checkups. As with everything in life, you will only get as much out of this course as you put into it. This material explores the nature of conflict and gives insights into how Christians are to handle conflict properly.

Reading 1 Diversity and Harmony 1 John 2:12-14 The Psalmist sang, How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1). Unity is a thing of beauty to God, to the church, and to the watching world. In the New Testament letters we see that God put a highly diverse group of people together in His churches with the intention that they would worship and work together in harmony: • In Galatians 3:28 we read, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. As you can see, in the church you have males and females, Jews and Gentiles, and slaves and freemen worshiping and working side by side. (Also see 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 14:33-35; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 3:22-4:1). Paul said of the Christians in Corinth that not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth (1 Corinthians 1:26). The implication is that many average people were worshiping and working alongside some prestigious individuals. In 1 Corinthians 7 you can’t help but see that the church consisted of people who were single, married, divorced, and remarried. In several of the New Testament letters we see that the churches had widows in their midst (1 Timothy 5:3-16; James 1:27). The churches consisted of parents and children (Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 4:18-21). The churches were multi-generational consisting of old and young. One passage that makes this clear is 1 Timothy 5:1-2. It says, Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Some people were newly born again spiritual infants and others were longer in the faith and more spiritually mature (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 1 John 2:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2-3). In many places we can see that the church was multi-classed. This is evident in several passages but most clearly in the letter of James (James 1:9-11; 2:1-4, 15-16; 5:1-6). The class distinctions of rich and poor that mean so much in the world are meaningless in the church.

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As you can see, the early churches were diverse bodies of believers unified around Christ. They consisted of Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, prestigious and peons, slaves and freemen, males and females, single and married, divorced and remarried, parents and children, widows and widowers, old and young, and spiritual infants and spiritually mature. While we all prefer to meet exclusively with our own kind of people, God gets pleasure out of forging diverse people into a unified body of people who love Him and each other deeply. He is greatly glorified when that body works harmoniously to make more and better followers of Jesus Christ. Heart Checkup: Make a list of all of the diversity God has placed within your church. How well is your church doing at joining God in His desires to create harmony amidst the diversity you experience?

Reading 2 Commonness and Differences Colossians 3:22–4:1; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 6:17-18; James 1:9-11 Christians share much in common with other Christians in spite of all the diversity that may exist in their churches. This commonness enables them to have harmonious fellowship. In the Bible the Greek word for common is koine and the Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. You can see the root word koine in koinonia. Any time people gather for social interaction over what they share in common, they are having fellowship. It can revolve around politics, sports, hobbies, interests, or whatever. While Christians may talk about all of these things, it is when their interaction revolves around Jesus Christ that they are engaging in Christian fellowship. Among Christians there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). The categories that mean so much in the world are meaningless within the church. Christians celebrate a common Savior, salvation, belief system, morality, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, purpose for living, and reservation in heaven. All who know Christ are all regenerated, reconciled, ransomed, redeemed, forgiven, born again, and adopted into God’s family. Christians are the chosen people of God, the household of faith, the body of Christ, the family of God, and the bride of Christ. People naturally get fixated on the differences that exist between them. We see each other as Jews or Gentiles, black or white, rich or poor, prestigious or peons, slaves or freemen, males or females, single or married, old or young, and spiritual infants or mature. But, according to Galatians 3:28, God is working to get us fixated on what we have in common in Christ. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The New Testament does not teach us to deny the reality of our differences and act as though they do not exist. In fact, there are so many biblical instructions that we cannot obey unless we realistically acknowledge our differences first. You saw this in your reading of 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 6:1718 and James 1:9-11. You saw how the rich should act toward the poor, men toward women, young toward the elderly, Jews toward Gentiles, slaves toward masters, and masters toward slaves. While realistically acknowledging our societal differences, we are given biblical instructions about how we should lovingly relate to people who are different than us. Part of that relating has to do with emphasizing what we share in common over where our differences exist. Heart Checkup: When you interact with your fellow Christians, do you focus more on what you have in common in Christ or on the differences that exist between you? Is there any category of people that you avoid rather than choose to interact with lovingly? Why do you not interact with these groups of people?

Reading 3 Attitudes Leading to Harmony Ephesians 4:2-6 In the churches we can see Jews and Gentiles, black and white, rich and poor, prestigious and peons, slaves and freemen, males and females, single and married, old and young, spiritual infants and mature, and many other differences. Some of the attitudes that allow diversity to work in harmony are found in Ephesians 4:2-6. First, it takes genuine humility. You must not see yourself and people like you as being superior to others who are different from you. The world breeds a sense of superiority in people. The Holy Spirit breeds a sense of voluntary inferiority. Second, it takes gentleness. You must not be mean toward people who are different than you. The world may give permission to speak and act with disdain toward certain kinds of people but Christ does not. You should speak and act gently and kindly to all people at all times. Third, it takes patience. Differences irritate. There is no way around it. The world tells us to find a way to relate so that we minimize the irritation. That usually involves some kind of segregation rather than integration. Christ requires an integration in which we endure the stresses out of love for others. Fourth, it takes forbearance. The differences between people agitate. The world tells us to find a way to minimize the agitation by having as little to do with each other as possible. Christ wants us to worship and work together like a functional family and that involves lovingly tolerating our differences. Fifth, it takes effort. Unity amidst diversity does not come naturally. People naturally segregate. It takes strenuous work to get different categories of people to integrate. The world says it is not worth the effort. Christ says that we glorify God when we put the effort into it and succeed. The goal in church life is not for everyone to be comfortable with each other. The goal is for everybody to be handle the tensions generated by differences in a loving manner. Finally, as we have already said, it takes a focus on what we share in common. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all. The teachings of Christ and His apostles give us more than adequate instruction on the attitudes that enable a church family to glorify God by being a diverse body of believers who deeply love God and each other, working harmoniously to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ. Christ’s teachings in one word involves love. Love is thinking and acting in terms of what is in another person’s best interests in spite of what it costs you. Its easy to love your own kind of people and there is no reward for that. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that (Matthew 5:46-47)? People from other backgrounds will not feel loved by you just because you think you love them or even if you say you love them. They will feel loved when you act lovingly toward them. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18). Heart Checkup: What kind of things do you do to demonstrate love toward the people in your church who are different than you? What kind of things do you do to show love toward the groups in the church that you have the most difficulty loving?

Reading 4 The Inevitability of Conflict Acts 15:36-41 I draw encouragement from this quarrel between Paul and Barnabas. It shows me that conflict is inevitable even among outstanding Christians. In this story two spiritual titans had a heated dispute over whether or not to bring John Mark on their second missionary journey. John Mark went as an assistant with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). For some reason, He deserted the team (Acts 13:13). His departure angered Paul so much that he did not want to bring him on their second journey. I suppose he wanted a team that was completely dependable. On the other hand, Barnabas saw great potential in John Mark and wanted to forgive him and give him another chance. The two men had a rousing argument over the matter and ended up going their separate ways. Barnabas took John Mark and went one way. Paul took Silas and went another. God chose to use both teams for the advancement of His work. No matter how much Christians think, and talk, and pray through matters, we are never going to be able to achieve complete oneness of opinion on many matters. It doesn’t seem like it should be that way since we have promises of God’s guidance in the Scriptures. It doesn’t seem that we should have disagreements but the reality is that we always will. The way we handle our differences is of more importance to God than the final decisions that we make. Whenever different kinds of people are blended into a church family, there will be innate tensions. That is why we naturally want to segregate and relate to our own kind of people. It’s easier and we are naturally lazy about relating to others who are different. Think about the diversity that existed in the churches of the New Testament. Think about all the tensions that resulted. Think about the fact that the New Testament provides all of the instructions that enable diverse people to worship and work in harmony. While these instructions are more easily understood than applied, they work when they are put into practice with God’s help. I am pleased to say that Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark were able to eventually resolve their differences. Many years later Paul gave John Mark a backhanded compliment when he said to Timothy, Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). The reader might find it to be of interest to know that this John Mark was the author of the Gospel according to Mark. May God enable you to resolve your differences with others. Heart Checkup: Do you think that Christians will arrive at consensus on all matters if they submit enough, study the Bible enough, pray enough, believe enough, think enough, consult enough and wait enough? Do you agree that no matter how much we submit, study, pray, believe, think, consult, and wait on the Holy Spirit to lead, Christians will have disagreements among themselves? Is conflict inevitable?

Reading 5 The Target Philippian 2:1-11 In many sports the athletes aim for a specific spot in order to score. In archery and marksmanship it is the center circle of a target. In soccer and hockey it is the space between three bars. In basketball it is a hoop. In human relationships, we are aiming for peace. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. To live at peace means to have harmonious relationships with everyone. It means that there are no unresolved offenses or conflicts creating tension and animosity in the relationship. It means you can talk civilly to and about others. It means you can work together effectively without the interference of anger and resentment. While the principles we are teaching have applications for resolving conflicts between nations and parties, the focus of Romans 12:18 is on personal relationships. It is also the focus of this course. We will be dealing with the fifty to one hundred people you know the best and that know you. We are talking about the people in your family and church family, at work and at school, and in the neighborhood and in the marketplace. These are people with whom you interact on a regular or occasional basis. Some are Christians and some are not. You are to aim at living at peace with them all. In Philippians 2:2 the Apostle Paul asked the Philippian Christians to make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. When he spoke of being like-minded, he did not mean he wanted everyone to see everything the same way. It is obvious from the context that what he wanted was everyone to be considerate of everyone else’s views and preferences. After all, he goes on to say, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). He then encourages them all to be likeminded by having the humble and considerate mind of Christ in them (Philippians 2:5-11). In this way everyone was to be like-minded. We are not aiming for agreement in matters of disagreement. We are aiming for a humble and considerate resolution to our differences. We are aiming for a harmony that transcends the diversity and the disagreements among the followers of Christ. It is not when we are in agreement that we most glorify the Lord. He is most glorified when we have a relational harmony that transcends our disagreements. Heart Checkup: To what degree do you aspire to live at peace with everyone? With whom are you not living in relational harmony in your family, church family, workplace, school, neighborhood, or business dealings? Begin a list of names of people with whom you are not at peace.

Reading 6 The Silver Lining 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 It has been said, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Something good can be found in all bad circumstances. God is a genius at making that happen. While God does not create conflicts, God uses them for good purposes. First, God gets pleasure and glory out of unifying people of diverse backgrounds through conflict that is resolved because of the work of His Son. You saw this in your reading of Ephesians 2:11-22. There you saw that two culturally diverse groups of Christians that were having difficulty getting along with each other in the church at Ephesus. The Jewish and Gentile Christians had such different cultural backgrounds that it caused many tension between them. As you saw, Jesus Christ set out to create relational harmony between the two groups. He resolved the issues that divided them. He died on the cross to give both peace with God and each other. He put them together in one body, the church. God obviously get’s pleasure and glory out of unifying diverse people. Second, non-Christians are often attracted to Christians and to Christ when tensions are resolved by Christ and His teachings. That is because Christ’s way of resolving conflict is vastly different than the conflict resolution techniques of the world. In the world not forgiving, estrangement, hate, resentment, grudge-holding, spite, retaliation, slander, and gossip are commonplace. People throw relationships away and have nothing more to do with each other. People refuse to cooperate with those they resent. When Christians are not conformed to the ways of this world it provides a stark contrast to the world’s way of dealing with things. When Christians forgive each other for wrongs, reconcile with each other, and rebuild their broken relationships, non-Christians take notice. The miracle of reconciliation among Christians often attracts non-Christians to Christians and to Christ. The Lord Jesus prayed for believers to experience the same kind of harmony He experienced with God the Father. He prayed that the world would believe in Him (John 17:20, 21). There is some kind of correlation between Christian oneness and non-Christians trusting in Christ. Third, properly resolved conflicts can improve the quality of life in any group. Unresolved conflicts are stumbling stones. Resolved conflicts are stepping stones to an improved quality of life. When Christians work through their conflicts, the result is an overall happier group. As problems are properly resolved, the quality of life improves in a marriage, a family, a church, a neighborhood, a school, and a workplace. Fourth, hurts, anger, resentment, forgiveness, and reconciliation can develop a deeper appreciation within us for God’ forgiving and reconciling character. When we consider that God is so morally excellent that He cannot look upon a single sin (James 2:10; Habakkuk 1:13) and that we are continually falling short of His righteous standards (Romans 3:23), we realize just how forgiving He is. He is far more forgiving than any human would ever be. There is no one like God! He overwhelms us with how forgiving He is. When others sin against us, it helps us to feel something of what God feels when we sin against Him. When He forgives us of our sins, we come to truly understand how wonderful He is. There is a silver lining around or behind every dark cloud. Conflicts provide us with a tremendous opportunity to glorify the Lord, improve our quality of life, and woo the lost to Christ, and appreciate God if they are handled correctly. Heart Checkup: Is the way you deal with hurts and resolve conflicts much like the way the world resolves conflicts or is it remarkably different? Take a few moments and praise God for the good He is capable of bringing out of your hurting relationships.

Reading 7 Peace with Non-Christians John 15:18-16:4 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). The word everyone means everyone and includes all of the unbelievers in your life. While you must strive to live in harmony with every non-Christian, it not always possible. Your devotion to Christ will put a strain on your relationships with non-Christians as you saw in John 15:8-16:4. Elsewhere the Lord said, Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:34-39). As you can see, devotion to Jesus Christ can strain your relationships with the non-Christians who are nearest and dearest to us. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) You can see the strain in marriages in which one person is a devoted believer and the other is a non-Christian. The Apostle Paul advised, If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him . . . But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). And the Apostle Peter had a word of advice for women living with nonChristian husbands. He said, Wives, . . . be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (1 Peter 3:1-2). Living in peace with others does not mean that you strive for peace at all costs. Christians must not compromise their devotion to Christ for the sake of peace. While remaining faithful to Jesus Christ, you are to do your very best to live at peace with the non-Christians in your life. Often you will succeed as the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace (Acts 9:31) after a period of intense persecution. Some Christians have a “martyr’s complex.” Just as a masochist gets pleasure out of being inflicted with pain, some Christians enjoy being hated by non-Christians. They don’t feel like they are being faithful to Christ unless they are being persecuted. They are judgmental in their thoughts, cantankerous in their spirit, and harsh in their speech. Their faces are cold and they are not even aware of it. Sometimes the things that cause non-Christians to despise Christians have nothing to do with loyalty to Christ. Often it has to do with a lack of likeness to Christ. We need wisdom to discern when we are being persecuted for our Christlikeness and when we are being persecuted for our lack of it. We do not want to confuse persecution for un-Christ-like attitudes with being persecuted for Christ. Look at the Gospels! Jesus Christ was the friend of sinners even though He did not make a single compromise. His character was so beautiful He attracted many unbelievers to Himself. He said that we would be liked and disliked by people just as He was (John 15:18-20). So strive for peace with the non-Christians in your life while realizing that such peace is not always fully possible. Heart Checkup: To what degree are you disliked by non-Christians because of your devotion to Christ? To what degree are you disliked because of your lack of likeness to Christ?

Reading 8 Peace with Christians John 17:20-26 Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations about church life. They assume it is unnatural for Christians to have conflicts. The truth is that conflicts take place in the church just as much as anywhere else. Every church mentioned in the New Testament letters was dealing with conflict to one degree or another (Romans 12-15; 1 Corinthians 1-4, 6, 12-14; 2 Corinthians 2-3, Galatians 5; Ephesians 2-4; Philippians 2, 4; Colossians 3; 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 Timothy 1, 2; 2 Timothy 2; Titus 3; James 1-3; 1 John 2-4; Revelation 2-3). In them they are taught the right way to handle those conflicts. In light of the Lord’s teaching and praying, it is especially important for Christians to have harmonious relationships with one another in times of peace and in times of conflict. He taught, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35). The chief characteristic for which Christians are to be known is their indisputable and demonstrable love for one another. This involves the likes of sacrificial deeds of service and loving conflict resolution. The Lord prayed that all of His followers would experience harmony in their relationships just as God the Father and God the son experience harmony in their relationship. He prayed this because there is some kind of a correlation between harmony among His people and non-Christians becoming Christians (John 17:21). Obviously, relational harmony is a high priority for the Lord and He wants it to be a high priority for His followers. Through His apostle Paul, Christ commands us to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit creates the peace but we have a responsibility to maintain it. The strength of the original Greek words chosen by the Apostle in issuing this command shows that it is not an easy command to obey and that it is extremely important. Romans 12:16 says, Live in harmony with one another. And it is only two verses later that it says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Romans 14:19 says, Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Look at how much effort Christians are to put into maintaining harmony. We are to make every effort to prevent disharmony from happening and to make very effort to restore harmony when we fail to prevent it. There is a saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The idea is that it takes less work to prevent problems from occurring than it does to fix them. Indeed, it takes less energy to prevent disharmony from occurring in relationships than it does to restore harmony to relationships. In Learning to Love you focused on the ounce of prevention and how to develop harmonious relationships. In the Twelve Steps to Restoring Harmony in Wounded Relationships we are focusing on the pound of cure. Heart Checkup: When conflicts erupt, do you make every effort to maintain unity? Do you do all that is in your power to do to live at peace with everyone?

Reading 9 Practical Disputes James 3:13-18 James says there are two kinds of wisdom by which conflicts can be resolved. Godly wisdom refuses to violate the will of God for the treatment of others. Self-centered wisdom cares more about getting it’s way. In this course we are trying to teach you how to resolve conflicts with godly wisdom. James uses two sets of two words to describe self-centered wisdom. The first is selfish ambition. That is, “I want what I want and I am willing to hurt others in order to get it.” The second is bitter envy for which the Greek word is zelos, implying a zealous and jealous struggle for control. Zelos is thinking, “I will ardently try to get my views to prevail over alternative viewpoints and I will be angrily jealous if I don’t succeed.” James says a conflict that is being resolved by self-centered wisdom produces disorder and every evil practice (verse 14). Many of us have sadly watched in disbelief the length to which professing Christians will go when the emotional stakes are high enough. James’ words, disorder and every evil practice, are perfect. When I was a new believer in Christ, a conflict broke out in the church of which I was a part. I felt very strongly about one side of the argument and sided with the people who agreed with me. I went on a crusade to persuade others to see things my way, the seemingly right way, the seemingly biblical way. I was sure that my opinion was God’s opinion. An older man I deeply respected rebuked me, Lovingly he said to me, “God can use your opinions while at the same time the devil can use your attitude.” I was angry with him and defensive. In time I saw how right he was! As a pastor since 1980, I have seen this very same scenario repeated hundreds of times–a godly viewpoint mixed in with an evil attitude, some radiator fluid mixed in with some Gatorade. James says our good intentions and viewpoints can be inspired by the devil! He says that such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil (verse 15). On the other hand, God-centered wisdom is different. James provides us with a list of seven things that characterize godly wisdom. The chief one is that it is morally pure through and through. It refuses to stoop to winning at all costs. It refuses to violate the will of God about the way people are to be treated. Second, it is peace-loving. It works at creating harmony and avoiding rivalry. Third, it is considerate of the thoughts, feelings, and views of others. Fourth, it submissive. That means it is willing to yield to the preferences of others. Fifth, it is full of mercy and good fruit. Among other things, this means that it carries a forgiving spirit at all times. Sixth, it is impartial. It doesn’t just favor the interests of family and friends but treats everyone equally and respectfully. Finally, it is sincere. This means that it is without hypocrisy. It genuinely cares about the interests of others. It does not just make a good show of caring. It does not just come across as caring in order to manipulate or flatter others. The results of resolving a conflict by self-centered wisdom are disorder and every evil practice. On the other hand, the results of applying godly wisdom is a harvest of righteousness (verse 18). Heart Checkup: Have you ever handled a conflict with self-centered wisdom? How resolved are you to handle future conflicts with godly wisdom even when the emotional stakes are high?

Reading 10 Legal Disputes 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 When the laws of the land are violated, the state will initiate the prosecution of the offender for what he has done. That is not the situation being addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Instead, this passage has to do with lawsuits that one person brings against another. Christians are not to bring lawsuits against one another. The Apostle is not saying a Christians may use the court system. As imperfect as the courts are, they are still useful for protecting civil liberties, for holding people and institutions accountable, for upholding the laws of the land, and the like. The court system is available for all, including Christians, who may need to appeal for justice. While an unbeliever may take a Christian to court and vice versa, Christians are not to sue one another in court. Why not? Christians are supposed to be known for our love for each other and the unity that exists among us (John 13:34-35; 17:20-23). To drag our disputes into this public arena brings shame upon Christ and Christians. It destroys our witness to the world. The Apostle is not advocating that we hide our disputes like a family might cover up a deep, dark family secret. That’s not the point at all. He clearly doesn’t want things covered up. He wants things to be resolved in a right and peaceful way. He wants things to be dealt with in a way for which the courts are not equipped. He says Christians are more than capable of resolving their own differences without the aid of the civil courts. While we like to think that the courts are all about truth and justice, more often they are about one side winning over the other at all costs. In the process of winning, they deepen the animosity between parties. The combatants usually leave the courtroom with one party full of glee and the other full of bitterness. On the other hand, Christian reconciliation works toward an equitable resolution without leaving all the bitterness in its wake. It minimizes the damage done to relationships and increases the potential for reconciliation. Christian justice involves components that the world’s court systems cannot offer such as utmost concern for truth and righteousness, a self-assessment of all the hearts involved, a process that does not slander the other party, trust in a sovereign God who can bring good out of bad, a different perspective on personal rights, confessions of wrongdoing, forgiveness of offenses, and the pursuit of reconciliation. Where does the Apostle expect us to find people who are capable to serve as good reconcilers? We are to look within our church families. Even men of little account in the church (v.4) can be capable of making good judgments. We would select men and women who are full of love for God and people, full of grace and truth, and full of wisdom and patience. They should be righteous, impartial, and fair-minded. They should be people who do not jump to conclusions but listen attentively with intent to understand. Ideally they would be respected and trusted by the disputants and in the church at large. If such people cannot be found inside a specific local church, help from the greater Christian community should be welcomed. In fact, such help may be essential if the disputants are not from the same church. There is no guarantee that a perfect settlement will be achieved just as the world’s courts cannot offer such a guarantee. Hopefully, the process will produce a result as good or better than the world’s courts without generating all of the animosity. Heart Checkup: Have you ever taken a Christian to court? Have you asked the Lord to forgive you? Whether you have taken a fellow Christian to court or not, is there anything preventing you from pledging that you will never do so?

Reading 11 Doctrinal Disputes Romans 10:9 and 1 Timothy 3:16 Sometimes disputes erupt in a church over different understandings about what the Bible teaches. As with all disagreements, Christlike attitudes are essential to resolving the dispute. On top of that, the best way to prevent doctrinal disputes is for a church to have an agreed upon statement of faith to which its members must subscribe. This statement is a synopsis of what a church believes to be doctrinally most important. In the New Testament you can see the embryonic stages of creeds, confessions, and statements of faith (Romans 10:9; Ephesians 4:4-6; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 3:16). Every generation of Christians has had to articulate their beliefs in the midst of their doctrinal struggles. For example, the Apostle’s Creed , still used today, was in widespread use around A.D. 200 and reflected what the early church understood Christ and His apostles to teach. It was a tool used to distinguish Christians from non-Christians. The Nicene Creed is also widely used today. It was written in A.D. 325. It dealt with debates over the identity of Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirt, and the Triunity of God. (See Appendix 1 for all creeds and statements mentioned in this reading.) In 1517 Martin Luther launched the Protestant reformation. Furious debates took place over the matter of how sinners get right with a perfectly pure God. The Augsburg Confession was perhaps the first confession to contain a clear statement on justification. It was written by Luther’s colleague, Philip Melanchthon, in 1530. It affirmed the creeds that preceded it and articulated that justification was not obtained by works but by grace through faith. The Fundamentals, written in 1909, was a 12 volume series of books that clarified the teachings of historic Christian faith. At the time a philosophical movement, the enlightenment, was causing many people to radically redefine the Christian faith while continuing to call themselves Christians. The Fundamentals were concerned with distinguishing Christians who believed in the historic Christian faith from people who had departed from it. These volumes were written by 64 distinguished individuals from various denominations. Out of them grew several statements of faith such as the one drafted by the National Association of Evangelicals. It articulates the essentials teachings of the Christian faith deemed necessary for salvation. Beyond the essential teachings, Christians have had many differences from the beginning. They have disagreed over God’s sovereignty, human free will, the security of salvation, the governance of the church, the meaning and modes of communion and baptism, the sanctification of believers, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the prophetic future, and more. It is what we believe about the essential teachings that determine whether we are Christians or not. It is what we believe about those other matters that divide Christians into various denominations. To prevent and settle doctrinal disputes, each church needs a clear statement of faith that merges the essentials with the other teachings that are important to them. That statement of faith then serves as a standard of agreement and allows for healthy disagreement. If a member has a doctrinal conviction that is incompatible with a church’s statement of faith, he should move on to a like-minded church (if one is available) rather than cause dissension. If he causes dissension, he must be disciplined by the church. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian (3rd century), said it well, “In essentials, let there be unity. In non-essentials, allow diversity. In all things, let there be charity.” In this way the churches will have doctrinal peace. Heart Checkup: Does your church have an agreed upon statement of faith that defines the teachings upon which all members must agree? Does it, by implication, define where your church has agreed to allow disagreement? Are you contentious over doctrinal matters? If so, how does the Lord want you handle your differences without creating dissension in the church?

Reading 12 Ethical Disputes Romans 14 Among Bible believing Christians there is an agreed upon core of Christian morality. Certain things are perceived to be absolutely right and wrong under any circumstances from generation to generation and from culture to culture. Then, as with doctrinal matters, there have always been disputes among Christians regarding certain ethical issues. These vary from culture to culture and from generation to generation. There are sincere Christians who engage in some activities that other sincere Christians find offensive. These are called disputable matters in Romans 14. Romans 14 deals with three stormy issues of that day. One issue was whether or not it was permissible for Christian to eat meat that had been previously offered to idols as sacrifices. Some Christians thought that meat was meat regardless of its source. Others felt that eating such meat was an indirect participation in idol worship. Christians were also divided over the Sabbath. Some Christians thought we should continue the Old Covenant practice of setting aside one work-free day of the week for the Lord. Others thought that this practice was not binding on New Covenant believers. The third issue dealt with wine but there is no indication of what the dispute was about. To deal with ethical issues, some churches have a church covenant. It is a statement that expresses the key moral concepts by which a church expects its members to live. Like a statement of faith, it expresses where its member are expected to agree and, by implication, allowed to disagree. I have included a sample of a church covenant in Appendix 2. In that same appendix I’ve included a document that my church uses to teach people where their lives should be going and growing. It shows them what we are trying to achieve in their lives. Some kind of statement can help churches although it is very difficult to be comprehensive and brief at the same time without being uselessly general. On top of that, a legalistic spirit can destroy the finest statement. Legalism has a way of causing people to focus on external appearances rather than heart issues. It causes people to be secretive, to be overly suspicious of others, and to grow critical of others. In verse 19 of Romans 14 Paul gives us this general instruction regarding disputable matters: Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 are full of helpful principles that will lead to relational harmony in spite of our disagreements over disputable matters. Here are the key principles you will find: • Every believer should live his life fully devoted to God. • Give others time to grow in their understanding of right and wrong. • Allow each person be fully persuaded in his own mind about disputable matters. • Don’t look down on those who think differently than you. • Fully embrace anyone that God has fully accepted. Don’t make disputable matters a standard by which you will or will not associate with a other believers. • Be sensitive about offending the consciences of those who think differently than you about disputable matters. • Out of love for others, restrain yourself from engaging in disputable activities when you are with people whose consciences will be violated by your involvement in such activities. Heart Checkup: What are the disputable matters among the Christians with whom you associate? Which two principles stated in Romans 14 do you need to work at the most?

Reading 13 Cultural Disputes Ephesians 2:11-22 There was a time when the whole world had one language and culture (Genesis 11). God ordered the people of that day to spread out over the face of the earth but they defiantly refused. He jumbled their languages and caused humankind to spread out all over the earth. Over time the peoples developed different appearances in the colors of their skin, the slant of their eyes, the form of their heads, and the shape of their bodies. They developed different tastes in food, preferences in clothing, and customs for living. God saw all that He had made, and it was pleasing to His eyes. Over time, people also started creating different gods and religious beliefs. God saw it all and His heart was filled with pain. Yet He had a beautiful vision in mind of an eternal future in which a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language were praising His name (Revelation 7:9). He cherishes the beauty of diversity coming together in harmony around Him. To pursue that vision He sent His Son into the world who in turn sent His church into the world to make disciples among all the different language-culture groups of the world (John 3:16-17; 20:21; Matthew 28:19-20). The Apostle Paul made disciples in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19). While in the synagogue he led a large number of Jews to follow Christ. When driven from the synagogue, he evangelized in the lecture hall of Tyrannus and influenced a large number of Gentiles to follow Christ. Blending the two cultures in the church, however, was not an easy process as we saw in the Scripture Reading for this reading. Relational harmony between different culture groups is not a speedy process. Like all of us, the Apostle Peter was most comfortable mingling among his own kind. As hard as it was for a Jew, God called him to take the Good News to the Gentiles (Acts 10). When questioned by his fellow Jews about his involvement with the Gentiles, Peter defended himself by saying God told him to do it because God was now receiving Gentiles into His church as He was the Jews (Acts 11:118). In fact, the Gentile Christians were outnumbering Jewish Christians and it was cause for concern among the Jewish Christians. A special summit was called to discuss the matter. Peter was among the outspoken advocates for the Gentiles at the summit (Acts 15:6-11). Yet, several years later, when Peter came to Antioch, he reverted to only associating with his own kind of people, the Jews, and the Apostle Paul rebuked him for it (Galatians 2:11-14). This demonstrates how ethnocentric we all are and how challenging it is for people of different cultures to get along with each other. Nevertheless, it is the clearly expressed will of God. As you saw in Ephesians 2:11-22, Jesus Christ died on the cross so people from different cultures could make peace with God and with each other. We have no choice but to embrace all who God has accepted into His forever family.Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). We must learn to think like our Father in heaven and not like our fathers on earth. We must learn to cherish diversity, not resent it, because our Father in Heaven cherishes it. We must learn to love and accept everyone the Father loves and accepts as His dear child. We must repent of our ethnocentric tendencies and learn to relate harmoniously to others from different cultures. We must repent of all racism, prejudices, and past hostilities. Heart Checkup: What kind of cultural diversity do you have in your church? What kind of difficulties do you have with those cultural differences? What is the one thing you personally need to do the most that will create more harmony between your culture and the culture of others?

Reading 14 Practical Disputes Luke 6:27-38 Many, maybe most, church fights are practical disputes. Practical disputes erupt when one style or strategy is preferred over another. Practical disputes occur when selfish people insist on having things done according to their preferences over the preferences of others. People can get very stuck on preferring one style of witnessing, assimilating, discipling, preaching, teaching, leading, administrating, worshiping, or singing over another style. Sometimes we even think that our preferred style is the right way, the biblical way, god’s way to do things. People on both sides of the dispute can usually quote a few Bible verses that support their preferences and make them feel justified in imposing their preferences on others. We all have our preferences of style and strategy. There is nothing wrong with having them. It is unavoidable. Unfortunately, if a church has five or more people in it, it is impossible to get everyone to perfectly agree on a preferred style or strategy. Being unable to please everyone on these matters, we must learn to engage in much give and take for the larger good of the body. People who overly insist on having things done their way will arouse dissension in the church. Philippians 2:3-4 orders us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Selfish ambition is insisting that things be done as you prefer and using whatever clout you can muster to see that they are done your way. Instead of being selfish, we should learn to put the preferences of others ahead of our own. It is one way that we demonstrate that we love our neighbor just as much as we already love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). It also helps resolve practical matters when we learn to distinguish between functions and forms. Functions are what the Lord wants us to do (witnessing, discipling, preaching, teaching, leading, worshiping, etc.) and forms are how we go about doing it (methods, styles, strategies, etc.). A single function can be done in a dozen different forms or ways. For example, we are to worship the true and living God in all of His many faceted splendors and works. I’ve been privileged to see that the function of worship takes place in many different forms all around the world. Some prefer worship that is quieter and meditative while others prefer to be loud and expressive. Some prefer contemporary forms and others prefer the staid and time-tested. Many different forms can lead us to accomplish the very same function. We must not assume our preferences are the right way, the biblical way, god’s way. We should not assume that our choices should be everyone’s preferences. Psychologists have set up a continuum that I find helpful. At one end of the continuum is the convergent thinker. His actions show that he tends to think that there is only one best way to do things. At the other end is the divergent thinker. His actions show that he believes that there are many good ways to accomplish the same task. Each of us can be placed somewhere along that continuum. The most psychologically balanced people are those who lean toward being divergent thinkers. They are also the easiest kind of people with whom to get along. They are very cooperative in work groups and great team players. They are rarely obstacles to progress. Heart Checkup: Where would you place yourself on the divergent-convergent continuum? Where would others who know you well place you on that continuum? Would others find it easier to get along with you if you became more divergent in your thinking?

Reading 15 Personal Disputes James 4:1-12 Almost all disputes eventually become personal. When you oppose a person’s “brain child” and preferences, it feels like you are opposing him personally. After all, our ideas become a part of us. To reject my opinion is to reject me. When conflicts erupt, people can get killed. I do not mean they can get literally killed. I mean killed in the sense that the Apostle meant killed in James 4:1-2. He said, What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. He is referring to killing or destroying relationships and reputations. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus said, If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. The word He used for sins is the Greek word hamartano. It literally means “to miss the goal, the mark.” As we’ve seen, the goal in human relationships is relational harmony. We miss the goal when we do and say things that hurt, anger, and separate people. When people hurt each other, they often do not want anything to do with each other. This is exactly what Proverbs 18:19 says will happen: An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. A citadel is a city with a strong protective wall around it. In the ancient world it often took years for an invading army to overtake a fortified city. What a picture! When a person is offended, hurt, angered, or embittered, a strong wall goes up around them and it can be very difficult to penetrate. When walls go up, relationships become dysfunctional. These walls prevent people from being able to communicate, pray, or work together as effectively as they did before. The relationship is no longer fully functional. For the relationship to become fully functional again, the walls must be torn down by following the biblical steps to restoring harmony to wounded relationships. There were two women in the Philippian church who deeply disliked each other and were feuding constantly. Both worked well with the Apostle Paul, but they could not work with each other. We do not know why this was the case. Did one say or do something that hurt the other? Were they both fighting for control? Did their personalities clash? Did their preferences negate the other’s preferences? Did they strongly hold to incompatible opinions? We do not know and it does not matter. What matters is that they were not handling their differences correctly. Therefore, a line in a letter that was read out loud to the church at Philippi said, I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord (Philippians 4:2). Paul wanted to see relational harmony between the two women. Christians have no choice. We must always work through our differences and maintain harmonious relationships. When they can’t be maintained, we must work at restoring them. In Twelve Steps to Restoring Harmony in Wounded Relationships we learn what is involved in doing this. Heart Checkup: Are there any Christians in your life with whom you do not have a fully functional harmonious relationship? Put your name in blank A and their names in blank B. These can include the names of people that you hurt or people that hurt you. I plead with ___________ and I plead with _____________ to agree with each other in the Lord. A B I plead with ___________ and I plead with _____________ to agree with each other in the Lord. A B

Reading 16 Appreciating Anger Nehemiah 5:1-13 It is inevitable. Christians are going to inadvertently quarrel, hurt, and anger each other from time to time. Because most anger is not managed well, anger develops a poor reputation as an emotion. Fortunately, wonderful things can happen when people get angry and use that anger for good purposes. Some people think it a sin to be angry. But how can anger be sinful when synonyms of “anger” are used in relationship to God over 375 times in the Bible (Psalm 30:5; 145:8; Romans 1:18; 2:8)? How can anger be inherently wrong when Jesus Christ, our supreme example. became angry on several occasions (Mark 3:5)? And how can anger be wrong when many godly characters in the Bible got angry and used that anger to accomplish great things for God? For example, in Nehemiah 5:1-13 we saw Nehemiah’s temper flare and the good that resulted from it. A famine broke out in the land. Some Jews who had food were selling it at astronomical prices, some weren’t sharing any of it, and some were exploiting the situation in order to take land away from its rightful owners. When Nehemiah learned of this stinginess, greediness, and indifference, he burned with anger. He publically confronted and shamed the exploiters for what they were doing. They acknowledged that they were doing wrong and gave back the vineyards, olive groves and houses they had taken. They paid back the excess in prices. They started to share what they had. A world without well-directed anger would be an awful place in which to live. Ephesians 4:26 says, In your anger do not sin. This implies that there is a potentially right and wrong way to express anger. We are being commanded to choose the right way. It can be sinful when it is expressed over selfish matters and in ways that hurt other people. Anger is sinful whenever it is not tempered by love. Love is thinking and acting in terms of what is in another person’s best interests. As creatures created in God’s image, we were created with the capacity to get angry. When we get angry, extra adrenalin and sugar are excreted into our blood stream, our heart beats faster, and our pupils open wide. We are operating at our peak of readiness for action. Terrible things are about to happen unless we choose to use that extra motivational energy in a loving and righteous way. We can learn how to put anger to good use. Every time we get hurt and angry, there are three options before us. We can retaliate, repress our anger, or use our angry energy to pursue reconciliation. Some of us retaliate because we grew up seeing anger expressed in spiteful words and deeds. Others repress their anger because they grew up in environments in which they were made to feel very guilty about all outbursts of anger. Blessed is the person who grew up seeing good models of how anger can be expressed in loving, righteous, and constructive ways. God made us to get angry so we would have the motivational energy we need to make good things happen as a result of our anger. We get angry so we have the wherewithal to take the biblical steps necessary to restore harmony in a relationship. Well-directed anger can do much good. Heart Checkup: How was anger handled in your family while you were growing up? How is anger handled in your church family? Did the most formative people in your life tend to express anger in hurtful ways, express anger in good ways, or not allow the expression of anger at all? How have the most influential people in your life influenced you to manage your anger?

Reading 17 Retaliate, Repressing, or Reconcile Romans 12:9-16 Every time we get angry, we can do one of three things with it. We can retaliate, repress it, or use it to pursue reconciliation. Let’s look at our three options more closely. First, we can retaliate. When we get angry we often want to strike back at the person who hurt us. Retaliation can take place in many different forms. We might try to make the person uncomfortable by screaming, yelling, throwing things, slamming doors, stomping our feet, walking away, spewing out vile language, giving them the silent treatment, or embarrassing them in front of others. We might try to hurt the person by hurling insults at him, striking him, or damaging something of value to him. We might try to create ill feelings in others toward the person who hurt us. We might work at giving that person a bad reputation. There are many ways to repay a hurt with a hurt. The problem with retaliating is that it only causes tensions and animosity to escalate within a relationship. That is why the Scriptures do not allow us to strike back at a person who intentionally or inadvertently hurt us. That is why they say, Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Kindness has a way of de-escalating tensions. We see this in Proverbs 15:1 where it says, A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Rising up to de-escalate tensions is why the Lord Jesus said, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:27-31). While understandable, retaliation is always the wrong choice. Second, we can repress our anger. Instead of expressing it, we can choose to repress it, internalize it, bottle it all up inside. While repressing our anger prevents it from hurting others, we do end up hurting ourselves. Many psychosomatic illnesses are rooted in internalized anger such as ulcers, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, impotence, achy joints and muscle spasms. Many psychological disorders are also attributable to internalized anger including depression, phobias, obsessions, and compulsions. Bottling up our anger can leak toxins into our relationships with others and affects our relationship with God. While slower in destructive effects than retaliation, repressing is just as destructive over time. Third, we can use the energy and motivation that anger produces in us to take the action steps that lead to reconciliation. In His Word, God has provided us those twelve steps we need to take. In our anger He provides us with the energy and motivation we need to execute those steps. Heart Checkup: Do you have a tendency to hurt those who hurt you? Do you have a tendency to internalize your anger? To what degree are you in the godly habit of using your angry energy to pursue the restoration of harmony in your relationships?

Reading 18 Slow to Anger Exodus 34:1-7 In today’s reading you saw that God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8). He wants you to become like Him in this way. James 1:19 says, Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. There are a number of Proverbs that have something to say about angering slowly: A quick-tempered man does foolish things (Proverbs 14:17). A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (Proverbs 14:29). Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered (Proverbs 22:24). A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Proverbs 29:11). An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (Proverbs 29:22). Obviously, it is a virtue to be slow to anger. To slow our anger down and to make sure you put it to good use, there are some helpful questions you can ask yourself. First, ask yourself: What desire of mine is being denied? This is a good question to ask because we get angry when we are being denied something that we desire. For example, I may desire a quiet evening at home and get angry when the children keep disturbing me. Or I may desire respect and get angry when someone belittles me. By slowing your mental processes down and by asking this question, you can almost always determine your desire and what is making you angry. After you understand what you are angry about, it is time to move on to the next question. Second, how justified is my desire and anger in God’s eyes? All anger feels justified at first. Upon deeper reflection, we realize that most of our anger is aroused by selfish desires or unrealistic expectations. If you get angry over displays of selfishness, disrespect, injustice, indifference, immorality, idolatry, worldliness, and the like, your anger is probably justified. If you get angry because you are not being allowed to be as selfish as you want to be, your anger is probably not justified. If you get angry because you have unrealistic expectations of others, your anger is not justified. And one challenge we face in evaluating the rightness of our anger is that our anger is often a mix of moral principles, selfish desires, and unrealistic expectations. If your anger is not justified, you must cease being angry by an act of your will enabled by the Holy Spirit. If your anger is justified, you can ask a third question. Third, ask yourself: How am I going to constructively express my anger? When you are angry for justifiable reasons, God wants you to express your anger and to express it in aa righteous way. Anger can only do good when it is expressed and when it is expressed in a constructive way. Constructive / Righteous / Loving Ways lovingly communicate important and beneficial thoughts and feelings lovingly confront a person or issue serve and bless (Luke 6:27-28) administer measured discipline pray for God’s intervention Destructive / Unrighteous / Unloving Ways assaulting people destroying their property using vile language saying things that are hurtful or insulting

Fourth, ask yourself: When am I going to constructively express my anger? Generally, the sooner you express your anger the better. First, you are at your peak level of motivational energy to address issues when you are angry. Second, it prevents wounds from festering in your soul. This may be why Ephesians 4:26-27 commands us, Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. When we fail to deal with anger in our midst, the devil establishes a base of operation in our homes, in our churches, or wherever anger remains unresolved.

While expressing anger as soon as possible is the general rule, there are times when it is best to wait to deal with the situation. If you fear you are going to lapse into expressing your anger in destructive and unrighteous ways, it is best to wait until you cool off a little. On the other hand, you do not want to cool off so much that you lose the desire to address the issue. After all, if your anger is left unexpressed, it will do no good. The question should not be whether or not you are going to express your anger. The question is when are you going to express it. Heart Checkup: Do you think others would describe you as quick-tempered or hot-tempered? Are you introspective about your anger or do you tend to just accept your anger as justified? How thoughtful are you about the way you express your anger? How thoughtful are you about when you are going to express your anger? How often have you acted so quickly on your anger that you said and did things that were not right? To what degree do you tend to let issues die down unresolved?

Reading 19 Fighting Dirty Galatians 5:19-21 Look at Galatians 5:19-21. Notice the words discord, dissensions, and factions in the list. Notice that they are put into the same dirty list of activities as sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies. That means discord, dissensions, and factions are activities that are just as evil as sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies. Discord is any activity that destroys harmony within a group. Dissensions are behaviors that promote disagreement between people in a group. Factions include any activity that creates competing parties within a group. The saying goes, “All is fair in love and war.” Many Christians seem to think that all is fair in war and church conflicts. I have served as a mediator in several church conflicts. I have always been stunned by how willing God’s people are to disregard His instructions when the emotional stakes are high enough. They may well take their Bibles and throw them into the trash. The classic symptoms of a dirty church fight are as follows: • People withhold financial contributions, resign from positions, or stop serving as clout to get their way. If their side loses a conflict, they do these things to spite the “winners.” • People threaten to leave the church as clout. They often do leave when it appears that their viewpoint is not going to prevail. • Decision makers force their will on others without being considerate of their input. • People ignore procedures outlined in the church constitution, bylaws, and church policies. • People distort the interpretation of these documents or insist on literal interpretations not previously practiced if it will serve their cause. They may even be right about the interpretation but have a putrid attitude about the matter. • People hold secret meetings that do not include everyone who should be involved in a decision in order to strategize how they might get their views to prevail. • People speak harsh and hurtful words to and about those who oppose their ideas. • People rationalize wrong speech and deeds instead of apologize for them as sins. • People disregard their obligations to forgive and to take the steps of reconciliation taught by Christ. • People hold grudges and become bitter and resentful toward the people who oppose them. • People jump to wrong conclusions about others without seeking or hearing all the facts. • People become critical and judgmental of those on the other side of an argument. • People slander those with whom they are at odds. • People leak information that was shared with them in confidence. • People retaliate for wrongs done to them and feel justified about it. • People fail to practice church discipline as outlined in the Scriptures. Many years ago I watched a World War 2 movie (I can’t recall the title) in which there was deep animosity between Canadian and American troops. There was hatred between them until they met the real enemy–the Nazis. Then they stood side by side as brothers. Maybe our conflicts would be minimal if we remembered that our real enemy is the devil and his angels (Ephesians 6:12); not our own troops. Maybe we would stand side by side as brothers if we understood this. “Friendly fire” wounds and sidelines so many gifted people. When Christians fight fire with fire, it leaves nothing but devastation in its path. Heart Checkup: When have you been involved in using the classic weapons of discord, dissensions, and factions in a church conflict? To what degree are you resolved never to use such weapons again?

Reading 20 A Good, Clean Fight Psalm 133 Just before two boxers begin to spar, the referee says, “I want a good, clean fight.” The competitors tap their gloves as an expression of agreement and then the ref signals for the bout to begin. In His Word, God has given us the rules for a good, clean, loving, and righteous fight. When a fight breaks out within a group or a relationship, here are the rules to follow: 1. Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1). Love is thinking and acting in terms of the best interests of others in spite of what it costs you or you receive in return. Love is to be the governing motivation in all we do at all times, good and bad. 2. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). You must do everything you can to avoid discord, dissensions, and factions. 3. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Always consider the thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants of others to be just as important as your own. Never insist on having your own way or resort to coercion to get your way. 4. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20). When the times are tense, put extra effort into listening attentively, restraining your tongues, and watching your temper. 5. Watch what you say and how you say it. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29). Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6). 6. Brothers, do not slander one another (James 4:11). Slander is any attempt to tear down the reputation of another person by speaking truths, half-truths, or lies about them out of animosity toward them. 7. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28). We must not share with others what someone has shared with us in confidence. 8. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17). All churches have established procedures for decision making. We must work to resolve our conflicts within the established procedures. Times of tension do not give us permission to ignore established procedures or find ways around them. Times of tension are not the times to take advantage of ambiguities in procedures or arriving at rigid interpretations of them. 9. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Retaliation and spite only escalate the tensions at a time when we are trying to de-escalate them. The Lord Jesus taught us, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). 10. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13). During times of conflict we must become extra forbearing and extra generous with our forgiveness. Heart Checkup: Are you ready to tap gloves as an expression of agreement to always fight right? If so, place your signature on this line: X _____________________________________

Reading 21 Giving Constructive Feedback Proverbs 27:5; 28:23 It is difficult for most of us to give criticism and even harder to receive it. Nonetheless, both are essential to healthy relationships. In this reading we will focus on giving criticism. Most of us are timid about confronting others. Those that aren’t are often overly curt and harsh. Each of us can learn how to lovingly confront others. Confronting can be the most loving thing to do (Proverbs 27:5; 28:23.) This is what we need to learn: 1. Think about your motives. When I have the urge to criticize someone, often my motives are impure. Sometimes I want to put another down to make myself feel superior. Sometimes it is my way of striking back at someone who hurt me. Sometimes criticizing is a way of expressing my envy or resentment of another. And I know that I am not alone in having such motives. That is why it is good to check your motives for wanting to confront another. Love should be your primary motivation and concern for the relationship should be right behind it. 2. Think about your relationship. Does the person you are confronting feel loved by you? The right to criticize another must usually be earned by prior expressions of love. Generally, it is inappropriate to criticize a person who is uncertain of your love and devotion. 3. Think twice about the accuracy and importance of your concern. Sometimes when you really try to understand a situation, you realize that your criticism is not completely accurate. 4. Think about your method of communication. Never criticize a person anonymously. Most criticism should be offered eye to eye in a private setting (Matthew 18:15). If you criticize a person anonymously or in front of others, you will only anger them and make them less responsive to your critique. Don’t offer a criticism over the telephone unless you know the person well. To be understood your facial expressions and tone of voice are important. Writing is not a good means of communicating on sensitive and emotional issues. Words on a written page can only speak in monotone and are often interpreted in ways differently than they were intended. It is really difficult to be accurately understood in writing. Missing in a letter is the inflection of voice that you put into it when you wrote it. 5. Think about your words and tone of voice. Love requires that you only speak words that are going to be helpful. In Ephesians 4:29 it says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. What you say is important; but how you say what you say is just as important. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6). Be specific about what you are saying. It is one thing to say, “I didn’t like the way you were acting last night.” It is much more effective to say, “I thought you were being disrespectful toward the leadership team at last night’s meeting.” One of the most effective ways to lovingly confront a person is to ask them good questions. We can learn how to convert almost every confrontational point we want to make into a good questions or series of questions. When we confront in a question format, people feel more respected than when confronted with statements, specially blunt ones. You will also find that people are less defensive when responding to questions than to accusatory remarks. Questions that starts with “why” solicit the most defensive responses from people. You can always soften a “why” question by determining a way to start that question with a “what” instead. I have seen the magic of doing this many times in my ministry. You could criticize someone by saying, “Why don’t you come to the worship service every Sunday?” You could confront them more effectively by asking, “What kind of things prevent you from attending the weekly worship service?” 4. Learn to check your timing. Your motives, attitude, relationship, choice of words, and tone of voice can all be right and yet your timing can be all wrong. This can make your criticism

ineffective. You do not have to deal with an issue the moment you are feeling it as long as you don’t just let it slip away. Heart Checkup: Numerous principles for giving criticism were given in this reading. Which one or two points do you think will be most helpful to you in improving your criticism of others? An Exercise Directions: Convert the following criticisms into good questions. Illustration: “That’s a stupid idea!” “What do you see as some of the benefits to your idea? How do you respond to some of the leading criticisms people are making of that idea?” “It’s unethical to do that!”

“That’s a stupid idea!”

“You don’t follow through on the things you say you are going to do.”

“You have poor social skills.”

“That’s not what Jesus would do.”

“Your attitude stinks.”

“That’s a lie.”

Reading 22 Graciously Accepting Criticism Proverbs 9:7-9; 12:1, 15; 13:18; 15:5, 10, 15:12, 31-32; 17:10; 19:25 Few people know how to respond well to criticism regardless of how lovingly it is presented. Yet being able to respond well is a key to becoming a wise and mature person as you noticed in the Proverbs that you read. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Constructive criticism, though an abrasive process, is a beneficial process. How can you respond to criticism in a way that will make you into a better person? 1. Desire it and thank God for it. Assuming that you want to be a better and wiser person, you can actually learn to desire constructive feedback. I was raised in a highly critical environment that made me constantly angry. I grew up always defending myself. Entering into my adulthood I thought the only way to respond to criticism was to be defensive. If someone criticized me, I would explain why my behavior was justified or not as bad as a person was saying. Sometimes I criticized my critic for criticizing me. Then I took a class in counseling skills. It enabled me to see criticism as a character growth opportunity. Since then I have been criticized hundreds of times. I still can’t say that I look forward to being criticized but I have repeatedly observed how God has used criticism to make me into a more Christlike person and effective pastor. Since I value spiritual growth, I value constructive feedback. I value it so much that I often seek it out. The benefits far outweigh the emotional consternation. We can actually learn to thank God for it. 2. Consider the source. Being criticized because someone loves you and wants the best for you is the best kind of criticism. Wounds from a friend can be trusted (Proverbs 27:6). Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear (Proverbs 25:12). Regrettably, there are many other reasons people criticize. Some people are just negative, and critical by nature. Some people are critical because they are overly idealistic. Some are critical because they don’t collect all the facts. Some people are miserable and like to make others miserable. If you know the nature of the person criticizing you, it helps you to keep their criticisms in perspective. At the same time, you should not simply dismiss a criticism because you considered the source. You can look for the kernels of truth in what they have to say. The New England Pipe Cleaning Company was once trying to unplug a sewer main in Revere, Massachusetts. In addition to what you would expect them to find, they found 61 rings, vintage coins, and authentic silverware. If you learn to tolerate the mess, treasures can be found even in unlikely sources. Even a poor source of criticism can yield a life-changing gem. 3. Pay special attention to reoccurring themes. A Yiddish proverb says, “If a man calls you a donkey, ignore him. But if two men call you a donkey, get a saddle for yourself.” If you start to hear the same criticisms multiple times from multiple sources, it is safe to assume they are valid. 4. Even if you suspect a criticism is not valid, let your critic know that you will think about what he has said. I have sometimes responded, “What you are saying is quite interesting to me. I’ve never thought of myself that way but I will think about what you have said.” 5. Thank your critic for sharing his thoughts with you . Knowing the benefits that can be derived from criticism, you should thank your critic for his constructive feedback. Often it costs him time, energy, and courage to share his thoughts with you. Be grateful, not defensive. Try to make it easy as possible on any person who had to muster up the courage to speak to you. Heart Checkup: How good are you at soliciting criticism of yourself from others? Jot down a few stories of a time when you benefitted from a criticism. Of all the principles presented in this reading, which one or two do you need to work on the most?

Reading 23 Pulling Weeds Ephesians 4:26-27 After a long and harsh winter, many New Englanders get the urge to grab a shovel, turn some soil, and start a vegetable garden. At first they keep a close eye on everything. When they see a weed sprout up, it is pulled before it lives to see a second day. As the summer gets hotter and they get lazier, people tend to neglect their gardens to one degree or another. Those who keep up with their gardens generally reap the most benefits. Some let things go until they finally decide to do some serious work to put things back in order. Some hire others to help them put their garden back in order. Some give up altogether. They generally reap the least benefits from their garden. Relationships are like a garden. The weeds of hurts, conflicts, and unresolved issues emerge. Those who deal with things quickly generally reap the most fulfillment from their relationship. Some let things go until they finally decide to do some serious work to restore harmony. They may put in some serious time and effort into applying the biblical for restoring harmony in wounded relationships. Some decide to solicit the help of professional, pastoral, or peer counselors to help them restore order. Some give up on the relationship altogether. They generally reap the least fulfillment from their relationship. The easiest and most fulfilling relationships are the ones in which people deal with each issue as it arises. Ephesians 4:26-27 speaks of not letting the sun go down while you are still angry. You do not have to be literalistic about it. It may be unrealistic to resolve an offense before sundown if it occurred three minutes before sundown. The principle, however, is that you should take care of these issues as soon as reasonably possible. If you can’t resolve the offense on the exact day it occurs, then resolve it the next day. If not that day, then the next. You should not let your anger fester. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:14-15). Heart Checkup: What relationships do you have right now that are “weedy?” What are you doing about them? Toward whom are you angry and bitter? What are you doing to pull out those weeds of bitterness in your heart?

Reading 24 Tear Down Walls Proverbs 18:19 Western civilization was once divided between capitalism and communism. That division was succinctly symbolized by the Berlin Wall. In the midst of capitalistic Germany was the city of Berlin divided by a wall that prohibited Berliners from freely traveling back and forth. The one side of the wall was capitalist and the other side was communist. Many world leaders made speeches in front of that wall. The most famous speech was delivered by U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” On December 23, 1989 that wall came down. The “cold war” was over. Proverbs 18:19 speaks of a wall that gets erected in human relationships. It tells us that a person who is offended puts up a wall that is more unyielding than a citadel. A citadel is a fortified city with a strong protective wall around it. In the ancient world it often took years for an invading army to tear down those walls so they could overtake a fortified city. What a picture of relationships we see in Proverbs 18:19! When a person is offended, hurt, and angered, he erects a strong protective wall around himself and makes it difficult for his offender to penetrate. Sometimes secular counselors portray the problem between disputing parties as one of communication. Communication is important; but communication cannot effectively take place as long as there is a wall erected between people as a result of a wound. If effective communication is going to take place, the wall must first be torn down. Some walls take more work to tear down than other walls. The height and strength of the wall depends on a number of factors. Some sins hurt more deeply than others and some people can hurt us more than others. Unintentionally inflicted wounds hurt less than deliberate ones. Some hurts are more understandable than other ones. While God wills for us to tear walls down and rebuild relationships, we are often tempted to throw them away. In God’s eyes relationships are too valuable to simply be discarded like garbage. We may say to someone, “I forgive you” while we say to ourselves, “I want nothing more to do with you ever again.” There are times when we can’t discard a relationship we may want to discard. The person may be someone with whom we must deal on a regular basis such as a family member, coworker, or ministry team member. In such cases we often withdraw relationally or emotionally from the person. These reactions may be understandable but are morally wrong. God wants us to restore the harmony in our wounded relationships. When His people resolve conflicts His way, the miracle of reconciliation brings Him pleasure and it captures the attention of a watching world. Heart Checkup: What relationships do you have in which you have erected a wall between yourself and another person? What relationships do you have in which another person has erected a wall that shuts you out of their life? What walls would the Lord Jesus like to see torn down in your relationships?

Appendix 1 Creeds, Confessions, and Statements of Faith

The Apostle’s Creed I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal (catholic)church, the fellowship of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. The Nicene Creed I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one universal and apostolic church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Augsburg Confession of Faith Article IV: Of Justification. Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4 The Statement of Faith of the national Association of Evangelicals. • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory. • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Appendix 2 A Sample of a Church Covenant "Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior; and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now in the presence of God, angels and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ. We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge and holiness; to give it a place in our affections, prayers and services above every organization of human origin; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrine; to contribute cheerfully and regularly, as God has prospered us, toward its expenses, for the support of a faithful and evangelical ministry among us, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. In case of differences of opinion in the church, we will strive to avoid a contentious spirit, and if we cannot unanimously agree, we will cheerfully recognize the right of the majority to govern. We also engage to maintain family and private devotions; to study diligently the word of God; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintance ; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be kind and just to those in our employ , and faithful in the service we promise others; endeavoring in the purity of heart and good will towards all men to exemplify and commend our holy faith. We further engage to watch over, to pray for, to exhort and stir up each other unto every good word and work; to guard each other's reputation, not needlessly exposing the infirmities of others; to participate in each other's joys, and with tender sympathy bear one another's burdens and sorrows; to cultivate Christian courtesy; to be slow to give or take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, being mindful of the rules of the Savior in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, to secure it without delay; and through life, amid evil report, and good report, to seek to live to the glory of God, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. When we remove from this place, we engage as soon as possible to unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's word."